Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 25, Israeli and German combat planes will make a symbolic flyover of the old Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany. The aerial tribute will highlight two weeks of a joint training program under which Israeli air forces trained on German soil for the first time.
This is their first-ever joint military exercise in Germany where millions of Jews died in the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” in which Jews and others Hitler considered unfit for the new Germany were exterminated in gas chambers in concentration camps, starting with Dachau in 1933.
Hitler’s program of extermination also targeted others he considered unfit, among them, artists and intellectuals, communists, the physically and mentally handicapped, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some Catholic clergymen two of whom were later canonized by Pope John Paul II. Dachau was the first of the concentration camps where they were executed by lethal gas.
This is the first time that Israeli air forces have trained on German soil since World War II. Israeli F-16s and other European fighter jets will also overfly the nearby Fuerstenfeldbruck air base to commemorate the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israelis were killed. Lufwaffe chief Inge Gerfhartz said the joint exercise is “a sign of our friendship today” and a reminder to Germany of its “enduring responsibility to fight anti-Semitism” because of its Nazi past.
Germany led the Axis alliance that fought the Allies led by the United States in Europe. On the other side of the globe, in the Pacific, it was Japan that led the Axis forces. Last August 15, Japan commemorated the official end of World War II with its surrender on that day in 1945, with Emperor Naruhito voicing his deep remorse over Japan’s wartime actions.
These commemorations in Germany and Japan, the principal Axis powers in World War II, are hardly noticed by most of the world today. But they are important to Germany and Japan as reminders of a dark past they hope will never again afflict the world.
The coming joint flyover of German and Israeli jets over Dachau on Tuesday holds great significance to both nations as a sign of their forgetting a dark past and their looking forward to a future of cooperation and joint action for peace and progress.